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muscle mouth memory

Like a baby dinosaur squalking for food, exercising my muscle mouth memory sans microphone (it's laying next to the mixing board), at Walker's Point Artist's Association/Gallery 218's Feliz Navidoodads! 1995. Photo: Doug Krimmer.


In between my engineering studies at college, I read as much literature as possible. I was culturally impoverished, literally, and I knew it. (I read a lot: everything written by George Orwell, Lewis Carroll, William Blake, Samual Tayor Collerage, Franz Kafka, TS Elliot, William Burrows, and Edgar Allen Poe. Then I read more: Charles Bucowski, W.H. Alden, The Russian Poet Yeghtoshenko, Transcripts of Ron Serling's The Twilight Zone, more, more, more.)

To help with my writing, when I found a piece of literature that tripped me out, The Conqueror Worm by Edgar Allen Poe for example, I would stay up all night memorizing it out loud. (I was unknowingly preparing myself to perform poetry live, before I had a desire to do so.) Like memorizing bible verses in my childhood, I would memorize poetry. My dyslexic mind could not accurately remember the printed words, so I memorized words using the muscle memory in my mouth, and by the sound of the words. Finding the music in the word-sounds, the cadences, made the words beautiful, it made them easy to remember, it was the only way to remember.


The tinfoil fiberglass insulation-covered room in the basement (like Warhol's Factory) where I spent my all night poetry memorizing sessions. Photo: Theodore J. Richter


Edgar Allan Poe flexing his asymmetrical muscle mouth, 1848. Photo: W.S. Hartshorn.



Lo! 'tis a gala night
   Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
   In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
   A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
   The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,
   Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly-
   Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
   That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
   Invisible Woe!

That motley drama- oh, be sure
   It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
   By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
   To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
   And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout
   A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
   The scenic solitude!
It writhes!- it writhes!- with mortal pangs
   The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
   In human gore imbued.

Out- out are the lights- out all!
   And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
   Comes down with the rush of a storm,
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
   Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
   And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

by Edgar Allan Poe


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